02020-11-26 | Uncategorized | 9 comments

We are self designing organisms. We are designer as well as product. Or perhaps I should say, we are co-designers with our partners, fate and circumstance. In this case, fate is an abbreviation for everything that lies beyond our control. We can, however, own how we react to those things that are outside of our control, like the location of our birth, the family we were born into, the collection of DNA we inherited, the teachers who inspired us, or made us hate school, the places we traveled to, the people we met, and the storms and accidents that happened along the way.

It’s self administered alchemy. And discovery.

We each are some kind of solvent, a chemical that combines with other people and thus changes us and them both in the process. And it’s something we willingly accept. But, while we accept this, none of us can reliably predict the outcome of the process, and who we will become a decade from now.

Every friend we choose, every person we love, is bound to change us in some way. If they are more cautious than we are, that could make us also more cautious OR it could make us become more daring. If they speak well, it could inspire us to speak well also, or perhaps we would speak with less care. We are the designer as well as the product, and everything we do shapes us, not just the friends we keep, but what we do, what we practice and strengthen, and what we ignore and weaken.

Over time, a musician will hear things others don’t, the rhythm of water drops falling from the roof, the harmony created by two birds singing. An experienced painter will see color in a deeper way. The simple blue becomes indigo, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, or prussian blue. The generic red turns into Naphtol red, Cadmium red, Crimson, or Pyrrol red. An athlete, aside from creating a totally different body structure and changing their organs, will be able to concentrate in ways that others can’t. What about the food we eat, the drinks we ingest, the drugs we take? We might not observe an immediate physical change from smoking cigarettes, but give it a few years or decades. Similarly we might not see an immediate change after starting a meditation practice, but give it a few decades. And then there is food for the mind, the books we read, the music we listen to, the people we talk to, the places we frequent, don’t they all shape us?

I can’t help but wonder how wrong people who decry the mixing of differently colored people are, by claiming it will make everyone “grey”, when in fact it creates more hues. A re-joining of differently evolved lines of humans. In some ways mixed race people are more complete, less narrowly defined, less singularly purposed.

I remember a conversation during which I learned that in order to strengthen or enforce a set of genes the best partner should be a cousin once or twice removed. I don’t exactly remember what it was, because the idea didn’t appeal to me. The person I was talking to agreed with the premise and said that they could see themselves attracted to people who were very similar to them. This made me wonder whether there is a genetic switch whereby some of us are attracted to similarity and others are attracted to otherness. It would make sense from Nature’s survival perspective. Some people would be attracted to familiar looks in order to preserve and strengthen their genetic code, while others would be attracted to different and even foreign looks in order to enrich the code with new variations.

I am both the designer and the product. I am the magician and I am also the brew in the cauldron. I am the result of alchemy. I desire to grow and am aware that with every choice I make, the world and I both change.


  1. Melissa

    This is such valuable insight.

    I’ve read it over and again.

    I’m grateful to you for sharing it here.

    You’re an inspiring man, Ottmar, wholly separate from your music.

    I learn through you. Always.
    It’s a happy state to be in.

  2. Amna Mohamed

    This recalls Robert Frost’s poem “The Road not Taken” The poem is clear on choices that make the difference in our lives
    “And I, I took the one less travelled by. And it has made all the difference.”.
    We are shaped by every experience, every person- good or bad- every action we choose to take or not.
    But my question is, How do we know what the difference is? We would never know because we didn’t choose the other road.
    Because we can’t choose both, I believe that there is some other power that guides our choices.
    So our lives and yes, our existence is a marriage of free choice and pre- destination.
    So every choice we make, people we meet, things we experience are catalysts for change.
    You have put very succinctly things we have all thought about in nebulous ways, on the periphery of brains.
    This crystalizes those
    scattered thoughts.

  3. JaneParhamKatz

    Ottmar, I like what you are doing to me. :-)

  4. y

    “I am astonished, disappointed, pleased with myself. I am distressed, depressed, and rapturous. I am all these things at once, and cannot add up the sum.
    I am incapable of determining ultimate worth or worthlessness; I have no judgment about myself and my life.
    There is nothing I am quite sure about. I have no definite convictions – not about anything, really.
    I know only that I was born and exist, and it seems to me that I have been carried along. I exist on the foundation or something I do not know.”
    Carl Jung- At end of his life. To Aniella Jaffe.

    • y

      design needs a story ….creativity needs play

      • ottmar

        I would argue that humans need a story. Much of religion is story…. the rest is practice of one kind or another. Our brain looks for stories. Play Pink Floyd music while watching a movie or TV… always fits. The brain make it fit, perpetually in search of a story.

        • y

          pink floyd song – Money – I’ll give it a try ;-)

  5. y

    This is one of my fav posts by you. So many layers t it.

    I recently read this …”the Buddha applied his penetrating rational intellect supported by an intuitive vision to the world as our mind and sense see it and discovered the principle of its construc-tion and the way of release from all constructions, but he refused to go farther”


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